Sex trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery, involving the use of force, fraud or coercion to obtain a commercial sex act, such as prostitution or pornography.

Each year, a staggering 313,000 victims are sex trafficked in Texas. Adults and children are exploited for sex and labor over and over again. (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime)

Houston ranks #1 for sex trafficking cities in the U.S., but trafficking can happen in every community, and victims can be of any age, social status, race, gender or nationality. Traffickers use violence, manipulation, false promises and/or romantic relationships to lure victims into trafficking.

A substantial connection exists between domestic violence and sex trafficking, and sexual violence and sex trafficking. Thoroughly intertwined with economic abuse and domestic violence, trafficking is an intersectional issue that we address via outreach, education, shelter services and legal support.

Why can’t victims of trafficking just walk away?

Traffickers use a variety of psychologically and physically coercive techniques to trap their victims in plain sight.


HAWC Supports Survivors

Sex trafficking is interpersonal violence. Similar to domestic and sexual violence, traffickers exert power and control over a survivor.The survivors we serve at HAWC experience trauma that requires a highly individualized plan for safety. Our focus is on empowering the client, giving them the tools they need to heal, and letting them know we are here for them.

- Aly Jacobs, HAWC Director of Counseling and Advocacy

They Found a Safe Haven

Patricia’s teenage daughter was a victim of sex trafficking in Chicago. When her trafficker threatened her with violence for refusing to continue to work for him, she escaped. Days later, the teen and her mother arrived in HAWC’s emergency housing in a state of paranoia and panic.

Once safe, the pair received immediate trauma support and were connected to mental health resources. Patricia’s daughter also received individualized care and counseling with our in-house psychotherapist. Over the next few weeks, this family began their healing journey, from escaping to surviving sex trafficking.

Are You Being Groomed?

Grooming is the process a trafficker uses to identify and ultimately control someone.

    • Traffickers typically identify someone who is vulnerable and has a need.
    • They initially come across as friendly and attentive, but that is a tactic to gain a victim’s trust, learn more about them and uncover their vulnerabilities.
    • They fill the victim’s needs by showering them with affection, attention, gifts and false promises — anything to hook them.
    • They isolate the victim and then the abuse begins. Traffickers demand sex as repayment and will use fraud, force or coercion to assert control over the victim.

Frequently Asked Questions

The U.S. Department of State Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons suggests the following as potential trafficking red flags:

    • Living with employer
    • Poor living conditions
    • Multiple people in cramped space
    • Inability to speak to individual alone
    • Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed
    • Employer is holding identity documents
    • Signs of physical abuse
    • Submissive or fearful
    • Unpaid or paid very little
    • Under 18 and in prostitution

First, make sure you are not jeopardizing the victim’s safety because the trafficker could be watching. The following are sample questions to ask, provided by the U.S. State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons.

    • Can you leave your job if you want to?
    • Can you come and go as you please?
    • Have you been hurt or threatened if you tried to leave?
    • Has your family been threatened?
    • Do you live with your employer?
    • Where do you sleep and eat?
    • Are you in debt to your employer?
    • Do you have your passport/identification? Who has it?

→  Identify and Assist a Trafficking Victim – United States Department of State

How Can I Escape If I Am Being Trafficked?

Leaving a trafficker can not only be difficult, it can also be unsafe. Call 9-1-1 immediately.

There is no way of knowing how the trafficker may react and retaliate. If, however, you have escaped, we can help. Survivors are encouraged to call our Hotlines or LiveChat with us for assistance.

Be part of the solution.